FROM THE BENCH
Leveraging APHL ’ s Knowledge Retention Toolkit for Succession Planning
By Sally Flowers , laboratory director , Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Laboratories ; Erik Pearson , laboratory administrator , Nebraska Department of Agriculture Laboratory Division ; Rhodel Bradshaw , specialist , Food Safety ; and Robyn Randolph , senior specialist , Food Laboratory Accreditation
Some of the best apple pies come from recipes passed down through generations . Each family member passes down the knowledge of the butter to flour ratio that makes the flakiest crust , and how to make the sweetest apple filling . A written recipe ensures that all steps are preserved , and that anyone can recreate Grandma ’ s apple pie for their own family . This process of capturing knowledge is crucial in keeping a process alive and improving it for the future .
Like a family recipe , APHL ’ s Knowledge Retention Toolkit for Succession Planning
is a resource member laboratories can use to capture and retain explicit and tacit knowledge about an individual ’ s position . It provides a single document that an organization can use to pass along a departing employee ’ s knowledge . Completion of these questions also provides the components to construct an onboarding plan for a particular job position .
Sally Flowers , laboratory director at the Kansas Department of Agriculture ( KDA ), used the Toolkit to capture her directorial techniques for success when she transitioned from laboratory administrator at the Nebraska Department of Agriculture ( NDA ). Flowers adapted the Toolkit to fit NDA ’ s needs , making it more generally applicable to the agency as a whole rather than just the laboratory .
“ I knew NDA [ wanted ] to improve succession planning ,” she said . “ We were also working on an agency policy / SOP for onboarding and off-boarding teammates .” Nebraska ’ s state human resources department was involved in the document ’ s adaptation , and the work done by their team translated so well that other Nebraska state agencies also implemented the adapted toolkit .
“ Erik Pearson , my successor , received the Toolkit when I left Nebraska ,” Flowers remembers . “ I didn ’ t want to leave anyone in the lurch , so I put passwords for online accounts , memberships , my state cell phone , voicemail , etc ., so a person could pick where I left off .” From locations of important files ( ISO / IEC 17025 documents ), persons of interest and frequency of contact to prioritization of tasks that had upcoming deadlines and draft documents , Flowers added anything that may be useful . She even included “ a line or two on the history of how some policies and practices came to be .”
Pearson found the information provided useful and important in his onboarding process . “ I found the knowledge retention toolkit to be of great use ,” referring back to it regularly . “ I think if the new administrator would have been new to the State and the department , they would have been at a huge advantage as opposed to not having the Toolkit ,” he said .
Given the range of conditions under which a person departs a workplace , the Toolkit is only as good as the departing person ’ s willingness to fill it out .
“ I have heard from other colleagues in Nebraska that it has been very helpful especially when a departing teammate is the only one who knows how to do ‘ X ,’” Flowers said . She now plans to share APHL ’ s original version of the toolkit with KDA to assist in the agency ’ s succession planning . n